The Jaguar XE takes big cat motoring closer to the masses, without losing out on the brand’s reputation for sporty drivability and quality. John Oxley reports.
I fell in love with my first Jaguar at the tender age of 18. I was on holiday in a small north of England seaside town, and I spotted this wonderful old car parked up on a piece of derelict ground. It was covered in bird droppings and other sundry muck, but it looked wonderful, and I drooled over it.
Enquiries as to its ownership, however, proved fruitless, and I was unable to get any further information. But the sight of those big chromed headlamps and swooping mudguards will remain with me forever.
Since then I’ve had lots of encounters with Jaguars, most of them memorable, but with a couple of models under early Ford ownership – such as the X-Type and the S-Type – best forgotten.
Indeed, Jaguar has been through a few ups and downs over the years, but its latest owners, Tata Motors, seem to have the will – and the money – to rebuild the brand into the great name it was many years ago.
The XF and XJ showed the way, with superb engineering and style, while the F-Type and the new F-Pace are available for those who can pay for a bit more excitement.
However, making good cars isn’t the only answer – you have to sell them, too, and thus we have the new XE, its sights firmly set on the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class segment.
And the XE has been designed to do just that – to sell. Built using Jaguar’s Advanced Aluminium Architecture, its aim is to give the sort of sporting performance Jaguars are renowned for, while still staying within the bounds of fiscal prudence.
That said, it’s not a cheap car, and even the base-line Pure 20d as tested pops in above our $75,000 Executive starting point. Add in the beautiful wheel arch-filling 19 inch Venom black alloy wheels, and the price leaps another $3,500, while such features as heads-up display – as found standard on some small cars– puts another $3K onto the price, while smart key entry will knock you back another $1,200, and blind spot monitoring – another feature found on some small cars – is $1,200 more.
All that said, our test car looked phenomenal, and turned heads wherever we went.
In my mind Jaguars are all about beautiful wood veneers and leather upholstery, so the interior on the XE is a bit of a disappointment, with cloth seats (albeit with contrasting stitching), a plain one-piece dashboard made from what feels like a rubber compound, and a touch of piano black around the trick gear dial disappointing at this price level.
That said, once on the road all this sort of dissipates as the pure joy of driving takes over, and when I was able to leave the highway and explore the byways, well it was just heaven. Rear-wheel drive is still the best for me, and with the new Ingenium 2-litre turbo-diesel engine that delivers right from the bottom of the rev range, and offers great torque and power out of corners, coupled with a Dynamic setting in the Jaguar Drive Control (there’s also Eco, Winter and Normal), plus the smooth eight-speed gearbox and paddle shifters, and you’re in control all the time.
Light weight and a low drag coefficient translate to incredible handling, coupled with superb fuel economy. We didn’t get close to Jaguar’s claimed overall figure of 4.2L/100km, but saw low sixes most of the time, which can’t be bad for a medium-sized car with lots of space.
For the rest, well despite our bleat about the cost of bringing the car up to a spec level found as standard in many of its competitors, the XE is still well equipped, with a navigation system, reversing camera, Bluetooth, climate aircon, push-button stop/start, eight-inch touch screen, hill start assist, parking sensors, electric seats, electric steering wheel adjustment, tyre monitoring system, autonomous emergency braking, and lane departure warning as standard.
There’s also a great sound system with six speakers, leather-rimmed steering wheel with satellite controls, and heated rearview mirrors.
In Pure spec level it’s probably a little bit TOO minimalistic, but for another $4K the Prestige adds leather upholstery and brushed aluminium trim.
Body type - Four-door sedan
Drive - Rear wheels
Engine type - Inline 4-cyl. turbo-diesel
Engine - capacity 1,999cc
Max power - 132kW/4,000rpm
Max torque - 430Nm/1,750-2,500rpm
Fuel consumption - 4.2L/100km
C02 emissions - 109g/km
0-100km/h - 7.8 secs
Front suspension - Double wishbone
Rear suspension - Multi-link
Roof rack - No
ABS brakes - Yes
Air bags - Six
Stability programme - Yes
Air conditioning - Dual climate
Lap/diagonal belts - Five
Satellite navigation - Yes
Electric seats - Yes
Burglar alarm - Yes
Panic button - No
Boot release - Yes
Cargo cover - N/A
Boot capacity - 455 litres
Wheel type - Alloy
Spare tyre - Space saver
ANCAP rating - Five stars
Price - $76,900